Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

6 articles on this Page

Advertising

- ",i';OW FIRST PUBLISHED.]…

News
Cite
Share

",i';OW FIRST PUBLISHED.] I I TOLD IN THE TWILIGHT. » A Series of Short Stories By ADELINE SERGEANT, ^■Hthitr of" JacobVs Wife" The Great Mill- street Mystery, 0'C., 4-c. [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. J No. 2. THE FATE OF CECIL CHARTERIS. fj T is all nonsense, yAf >Ah) you can lend your- PX# |h/ self to such folly," IrT1 f I said the Rector of n Underwood one j^i if morning, as he /Va Vxs! l°°ked up from his lL^\ y")\ paper,and found that J< y \JI i his daughter was j jh\ I encouraging a young r I mau in the art and v J ~f. I /si practice of palmis- Ptry. He was still at the breakfast-table, •Zr-- from which the rest fjkf. of the party had WiT*' Charteris had thrownhcr- tk Vn 'n a neg^Sen^y graceful attitude W +i ^roa<^ leather-oovered couch that stood e.wide, rose-framed window, and was Q, eoding her pretty hand to the observation Sj\4 young man, who, on one kuee at her it!?' Was studying the palm with apparent ^e&t. Ca ^hil," said the rector remonslranily, how You be so absurd his face for a momenta there %,ery solemn look upon it. "I assure (}0 ^r. Charteris," he said, gently, that I ,(not see the absurdity. p. iJhil has told le some wonderful things, said Cecil, laughing, I am to have a .J'jant fate. „said Phil, gravely; "if »' paD **« yes, if!—if I chose the right path, dii-' *^at is. Phil is highly moral in his pre- 101 ions »- Tf •' v 's all nonsense! said the rector, in a So ^^pue, "and I think you both might find 8*th better to do." And then he iv ered up his newspapers aud letters, and „ to his Btudy. jw Which means," said Cecil, nodding her ndsome head, with a very mirthful look in i er bright dark eyes," that papa iB a profound J*'iever in the black arts, Master Phil; and t, he once told me that your family had gift of second-sight," li&Krhe sa^ y°un? man» h*3 eyes tne • *» op with sudden fire. "I never litU^ *<■ niyselr. You see I have heard so tj0ne(0^ wy own family, or my family tradi- Vnv,f An cphan for so many years—living J,0** or at school thawi conf?S9 Ton have much to be H0t for," said Cecil, briskly. She was tH0r,. all disposed to favour the mournful, s°Jn r reP^n^"ff v'ews which Philip Maitland kand 63 expressed. She withdrew her her f *roin lingering fingers, and rose to as she spoke. Go and have your reakfast smoke," she said. I am going in the morning-room, and the Lestera to lunch." it) Pie to the morniug-room, too?" the young man, meekly. "I don't 0(%i srao^e i &nc* Lesters are I ahan't see much more of you to- tijUjgjr^8 the squire to bo here as well as his '• ja and k squire at all; only Dorothy "Th* Arm- onceited jackanapes of a young iiess lnan he asked,with an accent of "bitter- th, Poor Harry JO conceited F-I never *iofc k 8o/' Cecil answered, lightly. She did Se^led°0S8 1°°^ t^ia^ <i°maj 011 l*is face she sped away to her own ^itin' An<^ a liltle 88 settled her u p & Materials to her mind. tq Phil !-how cross he is she said hini thC ilar,T ^as au advantage over ere> at any rate; I have scarcely aHi noten "a;,ry out of temper. After all, 1 *et»iper ?uro I like such very sweet- C°^b i eu' I wonder whether Phil will thi^Ar an<^ me res' my fortune'1' ?pftnt a ^'and was the recor's ward, and had iT^the I'r^001^ deal of his time at the rectory, f 4s> as h e^Va^s school and college life. He ^uiiat6 • 8a^' an orP^an> but he was kind'f .P0SSessi,,g a good income and folate a ^riends, and was by no means so Nes i0„ alone in the world as he some- w-fa ° picture himsulf. His delicate I^^fclwen «li°n! °r00k ln hlS ,0t' He N account, f to a publio 6chool "■orloncl an^ a Private school, y place for the development of oranks," had caused him to choose a Ger-I man rather than an English university when his school-days were over. Mr. Charteris was his guardian and trustee, and, although vexed that I'hil's tastes were not, as he considered, more manly and robust, he put no obstacles in the way of his doing what pleased him best. The fact was that Phil was a difticulfperson to oppose. He was subject to fits of stormy passion, in which it seemed as if he lost all control over himself. Mr. Charteris, who was a kindly, easy-going man, would do almost anything to avoid provoking one of these fits of rage. And from him the household took its tone, so that when Philip Maitland was at the rectory everyone gave way to him, every- one petted and indulged him, with the result that he considered himself almost master of the bouse, and could not brook the slightest contradiction. The only person who had of late dared to stand up against Phil's sway was the rector's eldest daughter, Cecil, and the consequence seemed to be that he was rapidly falling in love with her. Instead of firing into a rage when she contradicted him, he looked as humble as a chidden spaniel: he crouched at her feet, metaphorically speaking, and would not move save at her bidding. Cecil only laughed at him, and amused herself by alternately teasing and soothing him in a way that was rather a dange ojs pastime. She was at heart at good as gold-brave, loyal, true but she was outwardly a little careless and imperious, as much a spoiled child at nineteen as she had been at seven. It must be said for her in excuse that she was rarely beautiful, and that people had not sorupled to tell her so, Cecil Charteris was by no means the ordinary country clergyman's daughter. Her parents were well-born and very wealthy; she had aristocratic friends in town with whom she had spent a season, and she had made a dazzling success of that first season. And when she came back to Underwood, in July, she was neither pale nor wearied nor self- conscious; she was as full of good spirits and good-nature as she had been before, and handsomer than ever. No wonder, therefore, that a good many young men of the neigh- bourhood were reported to be in love with her or that Cecil laughed at them all. And now, Phil, tell me, what is my fate going to be ? she asked, with her sweetest air, when young Maitland made his appear- ance in the morning-room. Let me look at your hand, may I ?" She put down her paint brushes and ex- tended the rosy palm, over which Phil began to pore with tender and even reverent care. „ JFith body bent and siqiph sliding movements like those of a tiger, he drew a liltic nearer to his prey. 11 I have told you most of what I see," he said presently. Yes, but not all. There is something you bungled at. I would not bother you while papa was there, but now that we are alone together-I charge you on your allegiance, Phil "It may frighten you," said the young man, lifting his sombre, deep-set eyes to hers. And yet I think you ought to know. There is a danger signal in your hand. Before very long you will narrowly escape a violent deal h 1 am not sure that you will escape it at all. There is bloodshed and murder in your hand." "Good gracious, Phil!" said Cecil, with- drawing her hand rather suddenly, what nonsense you talk! Am I to commit murder or am I to be murdered P" I don't know," he answered, with an air of complete good faith, which impressed her a little in spite of herself. I see botfy but there is a chance of escape. Two paths in life seem to open out before you, and if you chonse one you fall into danger, and if you chooia the other you are safe." And how am I to know which to choose ?" Ah 1 that I oan't say. But there is danger and blood in one direction—safety in another. And yet-my science is at fault here, I ack- nowledge-I don't see how you are to avert the danger, although you may survive it." Cecil laughed-a little nervously, he thought—and took up her brushes again. ¡I If I oannot avert it, there is no use in thinking about it," she said. "I think you might have invented a prettier fortune for me than that, Philip Invented But I do not invent. If it is your fate, Cecil, to shed blood, or to die by murderous hands, I cannot shut my eyes to it It is written in the lines of your hand, and I cannot avert the danger, although 1 might try with my whole strength to do so." What is in your hand ?" asked Cecil. The young man started and changed colour. I have a long life before me," he answered, after a little hesitation, but not a very happy one but I don't try to read my own fate-for oneself it is always hidden in dark- ness." Cecil was not altogether sorry when one of her younger sisteis opened the door and claimed Phil for a game of tennis. She con- sidered that the conversation was a trifle too gloomy to be p!easant, and she was iuolined to be unusually cheerful that morning. Her friends, Dorothy and Harry Lester, were coming to lunch. Was that not enough to account for a little more liveliness than usual ? She had not seen much of Harry lately, and he had always been such a friend of hera !—and then Cecil blushed and laughed to herself, for she knew well enough why Captain Lester now avoided her. Poor fellow, had he not proposed to her that spring and been refused? Cecil was quite sure that she could never make up her mind to marry him, with the certainty before her of having to live at Underwood all her life-for she was tired of Underwood; nevertheless, she liked Harry very much, and felt an agreeable titillation of pleasure at the prospeot of hav- ing to refuse him once more. She was not a heartless girl, but she was very human iu her weaknesses. The luncheon hour arrived, and with it the Lesters; but the pleasantness of the gather- ing was spoiled for two or three members of the party by the fact that Philip was in a bad temper. When Phil was angry Mrs. Charteris was always nervous, and her husband taci turn. Cecil also felt uncomfortable, for Phil s bad temper took the form of not eating a mouthfull and of staring gloomily at Harry Lester throughout the meal, while, after luncheon, gentle Dorothy Lester tried in vain to beguile him into something like amicable conversation. And yet he would not leave the company. Indeed, he clung so closely to Cecil that it was next door to im- possible for Harry to get a single wordjilone with her, and hence his intention of pTlmding his cause that afternoon was utterly frus- trated. Cecil observed his manner of procedure and was secretly annoyed by it, but at the time she eould say or do nothing which would not have had too marked a significance. In the evening, however, she did not refrain from a little word to her old friend Philip, whom she looked on almost as a brother. What put you out so much to-day, Phil P Do you know that you are honibly rude to the Lesters ? It was after dinner, and she was strolling up and down the lawn with Phil at her side. The sun had but just sunk below the horizon, and a red light still gleamed through the fir trees that were planted m tha western side of the rectory garden. Mr. and Mrs. Charteris were inside the house with their younger children, but Cecil had taken a fancy for a stroll in the soft evening air, and Phil was never faraway from her long. He paused for a minute or two before replying to the question, and then said, rather sullenly: "1 had good reason." But why ? What bad they done to offend you ?" Ycu know well enough." Indeed, I do not know, Philip. And I think it very unkind of you to be uucivil to my friends." Why should I not be uncivil to them," cried Philip, with sudden passion, when they want to take from me all that I hold dear in life ? Don't I know that Harry Lester wants to marry you? And sooner than that you should give yourself to him I would see him lying dead before me-aye, and yon, too— for 1 love you better than my own soul." Cecil recoiled. Language of this sort had never been used to her before. And by Phil, too, of all poeple I She had never even suspected that he was in love with her. She could not find words for a minute or two, and in that interval of time Phil gripped her arm and spoke again: "I have never told you before, but T tell you now. My love for you is eating out my life, rt makes all the world beside seem hollow and worthless to me. I would give this world. and the next world, too, for the sake of holding you in my arms I "PhiJip, you must be mad!" cried Cecil indignantly. How dare you talk to me in this way ? Never speak to me on the subject again—and let my arm go at once—you are hurting me." He let it go, and then stood fronting her, I his eyes glowing with a lurid light beneath his fierce dark brows, "The day will come when you will hear me, he said. You cannot esoape me. You belong to me. That is your fate. I see it in your hand and in mine. Only if you give your lifo into my keeping can you b" saved from the great red oloud of blood-of murder and misery—that hangs before us both." Papa was right when he said that you talked folly about the lines in one's hands," said Cecil, and I shall never listen to you again. I am sorry that you should be so silly, Philip, and I hope that you will never utter such nonsense any more." With these words Cecil turned away and j walked to the house. Philip did not dare to follow her. He watched her until her grace- ful figure bad disappeared from view, then rushed wildly out of the garden, and roamed the fields and woods until nearly mid- night. The rector was accustomed to an occa- sional freak of this kind on Phil's part, and met it only by very gentle remonstrance. To outsiders it sometimes seemed as though the rector were half afraid to op-al, angrily to his excitable ward. Cecil did not tell her parents what had I occurred, for she hoped that she hadeffeotually put a stop to Phil's aspirations, and that she would hear no more about them, but in this she was mistaken. For the next few days he was constantly breathing words of the same kind in her ear. When she avoided him she I found letters from him on her dressing-table I' or in her work-basket. And all that he wrote, all that he said, breathed the same story-an impassioned love that would not be satisfied unless sho responded to its oall. And mixed with his protestations of devotion there was always that veiled threat—that terrible assurance that if she refused to listen her fate and his would be involved in some catastrophe which not all the power of earth and Heaven could avert. Indignantly as Cecil refused to listen, these insinuations bad weight with her, and ended in bringing a look of anxiety to her face which had never been there before. Harry Lester saw it, and fumed; her mother saw it, and spoke—not to her, but to the rector. "Harold," she said, "Philip is making Cecil unhappy. Had we not better tell her-- ? She paused significantly. The rector knew what she meant. Oh, no, no," he answered, hastily "not yet—no necessity for that. No need to trouble her mind. Phil has outgrown all the tendencies that once disturbed us. I don't think we need speak to Cecil." He went away hastily, as though he did not want to be convinced against his will, and Mfs. Charteris stood looking after him, and shook her head as she looked. She was not so fond of Phil as her husband was, and she had an undefined fear of his dark fits of sullen rage. But in the course of another week or two Phil's face brightened again. He became smiling, amiable, courteous. His friends were reassured in their minds about him, in spite of the fact that he ate next to nothing and was afflicted with a restlessness which prevented his sleeping for more than a short time every night. But his spirits were so much higher that even Mrs. Charteris was no longer anxious, and only wondered why the look of doubt or fear did not vanish from Cecil's face, She remembered long afterwards the per- tinacity with which Philip harped on a design which he had himself suggested, and to which Cecil had shown herself curiously opposed. He wanted to ride or drive with Cecil to a neighbouring hamlet in order to inspect a house which was standing empty. It was a picturesque place of some historic interest, and Cecil had several times expressed a desire to look at it; but of late she had shown considerable dislike to the prospect of going alone with Philip, and at last said, decidedly that she would not go unless her father or mother went too. '1 hereupon the rector consented to go. But fate was too strong for Cecil. The trio had started, and were driving through the village, when a woman came running across the road to beg Mr. Charteris to visit her dying mother. The rector jumped down at once, and bade the young people go on without him. And Philip smiled maliciously in Cecil's face. You need not look so dismayed," he said. I'll take good care of you." And for very shame Cecil could not insist on turning back. But as they passed the hall she saw Captain Lester issuing from the gates. lie raised his hat gravely, and in reply Cecil flashed him a glance which he never forgot—a glance of I mingled appeal and terror and despair—ex- pressions of which she was perfectly uncon- scious, although they revealed the inmost secrets of her heart, Harry Lester stood motionless for a moment, watching the phaeton as it rolled down the dusty road. His horse was waiting for him. Possessed by a sudden impulse, he swung him- self into the saddle and turned his horse's head in the same direction. Unfortunately, he had allowed the phaeton to precede him so far that at a point where two roads divided he became uncertain as to its course, as it was nowhere to be seen. He rode a little way down one lane, then turned and tried the other. It occurred to him that Cecil was going to inspect Hood House, the old mansion of which he had two or three times heard her speak. He inquired of one or two labouring- men whom he met upon the road whether they had seen a phaeton such as he described, and before long one of them told him that a carriage of that kind had just put up at the Rood Arms. Thither Harry Lester betook himself, and soon found that the rector's groom was enjoying himself in the village alehouse, and reported that Miss Charteris and Mr. Maitland were exploring the Rood House, Captain Lester put up his horse and strolled out into the village. He was unoertain what he ought to do. He did not know on what terms Phil stood with Cecil. From his recent visits to the rectory he knew well enough that Phil was in love with her, but whether Cecil returned that love he had been unable to discover. Perhaps he should only be intruding where he was not wanted if he pursued them to Hood House. But, on the other hand, Cecil's appealing look haunted him. It seemed to him as if she had called him to help her, and he could not disobey the summons. What could that look mean ? He would not lose a chance of finding out; even at the risk of offending her, he would make his way at once to the place where she might be found. Rood House, a long, rambling red-brick mansion, fronted by a terrace, was entirely screened from the high road by a wide stretch of park and shrubbery. It had long been closed to the publio by the morose and eccentric old bachelor to whom it belonged; but on his death it was put up for sale, and for some few weeks almost anyone who liked could inspect its carved oak panels, its mullioned windows, and its winding staircases, It was empty of furniture, and was tenanted only by one old woman, the caretaker, whom Lester met as he pushed open the heavy iron gates. Why. Mrs. Smith," said Harry, who knew her well by sight, "what is the matter?" The old woman was crying and wringing her hands. Oh, sir, the Lord be thanked that you've come! I can't get into the house—they locked me out; and I heard Miss Charteris a-soreamin' out for help as I was on the terrace, and there'll be murder done, I believe W She did not finish the sentence, for Harry Lester had started towards the house at the utmost of his speed before the words were well out of her mouth. "Screaming for help!" What was meant by words of ill- omen like these ? Was Maitland not with her to protect her ? Harry Lester had Dot yet grasped the idea that she might require protection from Philip Maitland himself. He reached the terrace, and looked round him anxiously. The door was shut and locked, the lower windows were closed, and their small panes seemed to make speedy entrance impraclioable. Ho looked up at tha windows above the ground-floor. One of them was open and from it surely came the sound of voices—the sound of Cecil's voice! A I climbing pear tree afforded him the means of

Advertising

NEXT WEEK :

Advertising

- ",i';OW FIRST PUBLISHED.]…